When it comes to caring for our cats, there are few subjects that get people as wound up as declawing. Declawing is a highly controversial debate when it comes to cat ownership, with more owners residing in the ‘do not declaw camp’. If you are unsure what declawing is, or if it is the right option for you and your cat, don’t worry we’re here to help. We’re going to give you a run down on 10 things to consider before you declaw your cat, so you can make a choice as to whether or not you do it.
Claws Aren’t Like Nails
Cat claws aren’t the same as human nails. Our nails are attached to us through our nail bed and whilst it does hurt if we kick them off, we don’t lose any part of our finger or toe when this happens. Cats claws aren’t the same, they are part of the last bone on their toes, so when a vet declaws your cat, they also have to take off a portion of their toe, which in older cats can be exceptionally painful when healing.
The claw is connected directly to the bone in the foot, and when cats are declawed, part of each of their toes is amputated.
Declawing can also compromise a cat’s physical health, because with no claws they lose their ability to defend themselves in a fight or climb up trees to avoid predators. It also weakens the muscles they use while jumping, climbing and running. Lastly, it changes their gait so that they walk more awkwardly and are at risk for orthopedic problems later on in life.
Two Different Surgeries
If you’re considering declawing your cat, there are two different surgeries you should be aware of. Onychectomy is an amputation procedure wherein the first joint of each toe is surgically removed.
The second method, tendonectomy, involves severing the tendon that moves the claw without removing any part of the toe itself. It’s important to research both options carefully, as both involve potential risks and complications such as pain at the surgical site and infection.
If you don’t opt for this type of surgery, there is another one where the tendons in the bottom of the paw are cut, so the claws remain retracted. However, this comes with its own issues as now you will need to regularly cut your cats claws as they will no longer be able to scratch. This surgery is a lot less common than the first type and the cost between the two vary greatly. If you are considering having your cat declawed, consult your vet and they will inform you which surgery they intend to do and why.
Having your cat declawed is no small operation, you are essentially removing the end part of every toe, on every paw, so the recovery for this is complex. You will need to keep their feet wrapped up in bandages and limit their movement for at least a month after surgery. You will also need to change their litter to newspaper in order to stop any granules getting into the wound and causing infection.
Post-surgery, you should expect some swelling and bruising at the surgery site. Your cat may also require medication for a period of time to manage any pain they experience during their recovery. Keep an eye out for any signs of infection such as redness or discharge. If your pet experiences any of these symptoms, contact your vet immediately.
A cat’s natural tendency is to scratch, they do this to keep their claws healthy and to also have a good old stretch. Research has shown that if you declaw your cat, it can change their personality and increase the chance of aggression as they are unable to fulfil a natural behaviour. This personality change could make your docile moggy turn into a fraught and angry feline that can’t get their aggression out in a natural way.
If your feline friend has started to show aggression such as scratching, biting, or even hissing, declawing him likely will not solve the underlying issue causing this behavior.
Having a cat declawed is not cheap. It isn’t just the procedure that costs money, but everything leading up to the procedure and the after care. You can expect to pay out at least $65 for the initial consultation, then there’s the actual operation. In total the estimated cost can be $1200, which doesn’t include any follow up visits if your cat needs them.
Not only are there medical costs directly related to the declawing, such as the materials and medications needed for surgery, but also the potential for additional costs after the declawing should complications arise. Complications resulting from a declaw could lead to further vet visits and treatments that can increase your total cost significantly.
Make sure you speak to your vet and understand all of the associated expenses before making a decision on whether or not to declaw your cat.
Declawing Is Illegal In Some Countries
In the UK, declawing of cats has been outlawed since 2006 unless it is for medical treatment. The reason it has been outlawed is because declawing interferes with sensitive tissue and bone structure. The UK government deemed it as an unnecessary procedure and pressure groups in the United States are also hoping it will be outlawed there.
So if you are considering declawing your cat, you must be aware of any local laws or regulations that might bar you from going through with it.
The older the cat, the more declawing will hurt and the longer it will take to heal. Most vets won’t operate on cats over certain ages due to the risk posed from the drugs needed during the surgery. Cats also carry 70% of their weight on the front legs and older cats have gotten used to this over their lifetime, they are also far heavier than kittens, so being declawed could be exceptionally painful for them. Most vets won’t operate on kittens that are under 3 months old due to the risks involved in the surgery.
The ideal age for declawing is between 8-12 weeks since kittens are able to heal more quickly at that time. Consider the emotional and physical risk of the procedure and make sure you consider any alternative solutions before going forward with the surgery. Keep in mind that cats tend to get irritable when they are in pain or feeling vulnerable and could cause problems if they are older adults.
Declawed Cats Can Live Happy And Fulfilling Lives
If it comes down to your cat being overly aggressive with their claws or being taken to a shelter, then declawing might be the right course of action as there are already too many animals in shelters. Whilst they may take a long time to heal, cats can live happy lives once they have been declawed, as long as they receive the correct medical treatment post operation. As the owner, you will also need to look after them correctly until they are fully healed.
It Can Cause Life Long Pain
Like with any surgery, there is always the potential for it to not go as you planned. Your vet should make you aware of all the risks involved, one of which is lifelong pain. If the surgery doesn’t go as planned or the toes or feet don’t heal as anticipated, it can cause lifelong pain for your cat. This is why it is used as a last resort in the UK as the risks of declawing are very high.
Declawing involves more than just removing the nails – it actually cuts through tendons, joints, and nerves, potentially leading to a wide range of health issues for the cat. These may include pain when jumping or scratching; chronic back, neck, or shoulder pain due to unnatural walking; psychological trauma and stress since they no longer have the claws they would traditionally use for protection; and even infections if proper care after surgery isn’t taken.
Some vets will only declaw your cat if it is a last resort and you can prove that you aren’t just doing it to save your furniture. If your cat is a particularly anxious cat and you have bought them scratching poles, used stress relief spray and tried everything in the book to stop them, then your vet might consider it. Likewise, if they have medical condition or abnormal feet that cause them discomfort, but it really should only be used as a last resort, or in the UK’s case, as a medical treatment.
Declawing cats is filled with controversy, especially in countries where you are still able to do it without medical grounds. Before you decide on this course of action, you really need to consider if you have tried everything or if you just want to have a nice sofa. If you haven’t tried other methods of stopping your cat scratching, or they have become very aggressive and use their claws, it will always be worth discussing your options with a vet. In the UK a cat can only be declawed on medical grounds and some vets in the USA align with this way of thinking. Declawing in an expensive procedure that can impact your cat’s way of life, so make sure you have given it some consideration before you bite the bullet.